#TIFF21: “MOTHERING SUNDAY” REVIEW
Review by Amanda Gilmore
Director Eva Husson poetically brings Graham Swift’s post-WWI secret romance novel to the screen.
Jane (Odessa Young) is a maid for the wealthy Nivens (Olivia Coleman and Colin Firth). Behind their back, she’s having a secret affair with their neighbour’s son Paul (Josh O’Conner). Their affair has to remain a secret because of their status differences and because Paul is engaged. When Jane gets the day off on Mother’s Day, the two spend the afternoon having one final rendezvous.
Mothering Sunday is a sexy, lyrical Period Drama that’s as much about the ties between people as it is about the power of discovering oneself. This is captured in Alice Birch’s beautiful screenplay that jumps through past, present and future. Additionally, Birch’s time changes create a poetic flow that Husson amplifies on-screen. She and cinematographer Jamie D. Ramsay SASC thrust audiences into Jane’s emotional state. Particularly in one sensual scene where Paul undresses Jane. Rather than show Jane’s entire naked body, Husson brings us into close-up shots that intensify Jane’s emotions. Therefore, making audiences experience those emotions with her.
One of many themes in the Film is about female agency. This is outstandingly displayed when Husson uses a wide tracking shot. She follows Jane around Paul’s mansion while no one is home as she touches books, eats cake and drinks a beer. This all happens in a house that isn’t hers and in a time where women didn’t have agency. In that sequence, Jane has agency. It’s impossible to imagine anyone but Young playing Jane. She is a force of nature, captivating at every turn. She embodies Jane’s compassion, desire and ambition.
Both Young and O’Connor have an undeniable, palpable chemistry that’s integral to telling this forbidden love story. O’Conner gives a powerful performance as Paul. He displays Paul’s desire for Jane and his survivor’s guilt, as the only son to return from WWI. O’Conner shows Paul’s need to comply with his family’s wishes for his future and the pain of giving what he wants away. In minor but memorable roles is Firth and Colman. Each makes their mark as the adults grieving for all the lost men of WWI.
Mothering Sunday screens at TIFF ’21:
Thur, Sep 9 at 9:30 PM at Princess of Wales
Fri, Sep 10 at 7 PM on Digital TIFF Bell Lightbox
Fri, Sep 17 at 3 PM on Digital TIFF Bell Lightbox